Business gives up on Minnesota, pulls $440 million investment

Back in 2021, Huber Engineered Woods, a North Carolina company, announced a $440 million operation in northeastern Minnesota. It would have brought 150 new, high-paying jobs to southwest Itasca County, and the state quickly approved $15 million in public funds to assist Huber in its construction of the facility.

Last week, Huber announced that they were pulling the project.

The city of Cohasset prepared the required environmental-assessment worksheet (EAW) in relation to the planned facility, but decided that it was not necessary to prepare a more detailed environmental-impact statement (EIS). These are required in Minnesota when a project will negatively affect public wetlands, which is what the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe argued when they initiated legal proceedings to halt the project. Last week the state Court of Appeals sided with the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, finding that “The city’s determination that an EIS was not mandatory under governing administrative rules is based on legal error and unsupported by substantial evidence.”  

Huber responded immediately. Patch reports:

“Due to delays that jeopardize our ability to meet product demand deadlines, we will pursue development of our sixth mill in another state,” Huber Engineered Woods President Brian Carlson said in a statement.

“We will be seeking a new location where we can produce critical home building products that are desired by American home builders and homeowners in a timely manner and consistent with Huber’s environmental and social commitments.”

Reacting to Huber’s announcement Thursday on Twitter, state Rep. Spencer Igo said “I am devastated and beyond frustrated. One of the largest private investments to our state in its history is gone, taking with it jobs and more. Once again, Northern MN loses because of negligence by our State and activism. Enough is enough! This must stop!”

Commissioner of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Ida Rukavina said, “Our agency invested extensive time, energy and resources to bring this project to fruition. We are extremely disappointed that these high-paying, quality jobs will not be coming to our region. Our agency was eagerly looking forward to welcoming Huber to our manufacturing economy, and the positive impacts the new facility could have had on the region’s timber and construction trades industries.”

Huber’s project will go ahead, it just won’t go ahead in Minnesota.

Businesses often leave or avoid Minnesota in the first place because of our state’s high taxes — which the DFL wants to raise even higher — and regulatory burdens. Few ever say that this is why, publicly, at least. The loss of the Huber project is one example of a broader trend.